|Stylistic origins||Funk - highlife - jazz - Yoruba music, Nigerian music|
|Cultural origins||1970s Nigeria, Ghana|
|Typical instruments||Bass guitar - conga - drums - guitar - horns - keyboards - percussion - saxophone - shekere - vocals|
Afrobeat is a combination of traditional Nigerian and Ghanaian music, jazz, highlife, funk, and chanted vocals, fused with percussion and vocal styles, popularised in Africa in the 1970s. Its main creator was the Nigerian multi-instrumentalist and bandleader Fela Kuti, who gave it its name, who used it to revolutionize musical structure as well as the political context in his native Nigeria. It was Kuti who coined the term "afrobeat" upon his return from a U.S. tour with his group Nigeria '70 (formerly Koola Lobitos). Afrobeat features chants, call-and-response vocals, and complex, interacting rhythms.
The new sound hailed from a club that he established called the Afro-Shrine. Upon arriving in Nigeria, Kuti also changed the name of his group to Africa '70. The band maintained a five-year residency in the Afro-Shrine from 1970 to 1975 while afrobeat thrived among Nigerian youth. Afrobeat is now one of the most recognizable music genres in the world and has influenced as many Western musicians as it has African ones with its exuberant style and polyrhythms.
Afrobeat originated from Ghana's highlife and heavy African drumbeats and was later exported to the southern part of Nigeria in the 1970s where Kuti, on his return from Ghana where he learnt the genre, experimented with many different forms of contemporary music of the time. Prevalent in his and Lagbaja's music are native African harmonies and rhythms, taking different elements and combining, modernizing, and improvising upon them. Politics are essential to Afrobeat, since founder Kuti used social criticism to pave the way for social change. His message can be described as confrontational and controversial, which can be related to the political climate of most of the African countries in the 1970s, many of which were dealing with political injustice and military corruption while recovering from the transition from colonial governments to self-determination. As the genre spread throughout the African continent many bands took up the style. The recordings of these bands and their songs were rarely heard or exported outside the originating countries but many can now be found on compilation albums and CDs from specialist record shops.
Big band (15 to 30 pieces: Fela-era afrobeat) and energetic performances
- Lead vocals (may play sax/key solos as well)
- Chorus vocals (may include horn players)
- Rhythm guitar(s) (plays funk strumming pattern)
- Tenor guitar (plays a finger-picked ostinato groove)
- Bass guitar
- Drum set, generally in the form polyrhythmic percussion
- Rhythm conga #1
- Rhythm conga #2
- Solo (lead) conga
- Akuba: a set of 3 small stick-hit Yoruba congas (play flourishes/solos, and ostinatos). Also mistakenly called "gbedu" (gbedu is the name of a large ceremonial drum), but are related to the Gbedu.
Many jazz musicians have been attracted to afrobeat. From Roy Ayers in the 1970s to Randy Weston in the 1990s, there have been collaborations that have resulted in albums such as Africa: Centre of the World by Roy Ayers, released on the Polydore label in 1981. In 1994 Branford Marsalis, the American jazz saxophonist, included samples of Fela's "Beast of No Nation" on his Buckshot LeFonque album. The new generation of DJs and musicians of the 2000s who have fallen in love with both Kuti's material and other rare releases have made compilations and remixes of these recordings, thus re-introducing the genre to new generations of listeners and fans of afropop and groove (see Afrobeats section below).
Afrobeat has profoundly influenced important contemporary producers and musicians like Brian Eno and David Byrne, who credit Fela Kuti as an essential influence. Both worked on Talking Heads' highly acclaimed 1980 album Remain In Light, which brought polyrhythmic afrobeat influences to Western music. More recently, the horn section of Antibalas have been guest musicians on TV On The Radio's highly acclaimed 2008 album Dear Science, as well as on British band Foals' 2008 album, Antidotes. Some Afrobeat influence can also be found in the music of Vampire Weekend and Paul Simon.
Recent years have seen the creation of the moniker Afrobeats (a term also sometimes used to denote Afropop or popular Nigerian music), in which Afrobeat is often blended with highlife, fuji music, Jùjú, hiphop, rnB and traditional Yoruba music.
Notable afrobeat musicians
- Fela Kuti
- Femi Kuti
- Seun Kuti
- Tony Allen
- Manu Dibango
- Dele Sosimi
- Kola Ogunkoya
- Sonny Okosun
Modern afrobeat bands/artists include:
- Jose Chameleone, Kampala, Uganda
- Newen Afrobeat, Santiago de Chile
- The Dublin Afrobeat Ensemble, International Group
- Adé Bantu, German-Nigerian musician
- Wizkid, Nigerian musician
- Lágbájá, Nigerian musician
- Sarkodie, Ghanaian rapper
- Kokolo, New York City Afrobeat group
- Nomo, Ann Arbor-based group that weaves various styles into a primarily Afrobeat sound
- Ariya Astrobeat Arkestra, 10-piece cosmic Afrobeat collective based in Leeds, UK
- Afrodizz, an eight-piece band from Montreal, Canada
- Tony Allen, drummer, played in Fela Kuti's band
- Antibalas, Brooklyn, New York-based multiracial Afrobeat Orchestra
- Funsho Ogundipe, Nigerian musician
- Chopteeth, an international 14-piece outfit based in Washington D.C.
- Femi Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- Seun Kuti, Nigerian musician, son of Fela Kuti
- Dele Sosimi, Nigerian musician and former Fela Kuti and Femi Kuti band member
- Weird MC, Nigerian musician
- May7ven, UK Based, Nigerian musician
- Mr. Something Something, Canadian afrobeat group
- Chicago AfroBeat Project
- Shokazoba Afrofunk Ensemble, Northampton MA
- Fuse ODG, a British Ghanaian musician
- Budos Band, based in New York
- Kwabena Kwabena, Ghanaian singer
- Castro de Destroyer, Ghanaian
- Afrikan Boy, London based Nigerian Afrobeat rapper
- Grass, Randall F. "Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: The Art of an Afrobeat Rebel". The Drama Review: TDR (MIT Press) 30: 131–148. doi:10.2307/1145717. JSTOR 1145717.
- David McDavitt (April 21, 2006). ""Lead Congas" in Afrobeat". The Afrofunk Music Forum. Retrieved 2010-01-30.
- Michael E. Veal (2000). Fela: the life & times of an African musical icon. Temple University Press. p. 3. ISBN 1-56639-765-0.
- Dan Hancox, "The rise of Afrobeats", The Guardian, 19 January 2012.
- Guide to Nigeria's Afrobeats stars. By DJ Edu, BBC Radio 1Xtra, 29 March 2014.
- "Stylistic analysis of afrobeat music of Fela Anikulapo Kuti". analysisworldmusic.com. Retrieved 1 August 2010.[dead link]